Nelson Mandela and Phil Robertson: What does tolerance mean to you?

The two most significant news stories of the past few weeks include the death of one of the most dedicated freedom fighters the world has ever known and a comment made by the patriarch of the nation’s premier family when it comes to making duck calls. Both general storylines involve tolerance, persecution, and hate. They involve a minority and a majority, anger and love, popularity and dissent, freedom and expression. The world on one hand mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela in South Africa recently as we were reminded of his struggle for personal freedom, for equality for his people through the abolition of apartheid, and his support of nonviolent means to accomplish his peaceful and tolerant ends. On the other hand, many Americans are bemoaning the fact that a reality TV star in an attention grabbing interview likened homosexual practices to fornicating with animals citing the Bible as his intellectual foundation for that relationship. Which one of these happenings affected more Americans and sparked more discourse? Sadly, an unintelligible duck call entrepreneur…

So, because so many people are making Phil Robertson’s bigoted and ignorant comments a religious issue let’s fight fire with fire. The bible calls homosexuality and bestiality an abomination. In Leviticus, the bible also  claims that you can’t eat anything from the sea that lacks fins or scales. The bible dictates that if you are widowed by your husband you must live with his older brother and submit to his every demand so that he will take care of  your family. The bible decrees that meat should be prepared a certain way from clean parts of an animal. The bible claims that God is a murderer (the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus). Do these seem oversimplified? Absolutely. But, Christians, including Phil Robertson, apparently have the ability to pick and choose when the nuances of historical and cultural change apply to ancient texts and when those same words should be taken literally. Based on his logic, all of the following things are the same as homosexuality in God’s eyes:

Eating Bacon

Eating Shrimp

Eating Lobster

Eating Crab (ok you get it)

Masterbation

Anal Sex

Oral Sex

Gambling

Remarriage outside the family

Consuming alcohol

Being rich

All of a sudden I’m feeling like super gay guys. Come on, let’s be serious here. Christians don’t live their lives like they or their beliefs are being persecuted because they aren’t. But, when something hits the newsprint such as this story they are up in arms about how their lifestyle is being infringed upon along with their freedom of speech because of the growing tide of political correctness. Jesus taught about love, tolerance, humility, and caring for your neighbor. How does an unprovoked bigoted attack on homosexuals constitute the way of God? And, if it does, why would you believe in him or worship the teachings that are supposedly infallible that support those hateful conclusions Phil Robertson espoused. Christians in this country are not in the minority, they never have been. Just because they are jealous of the growing support minority groups receive when they are singled out by intolerant Christians doesn’t mean the prescription to cure that situation is to claim persecution. It’s so weak and if your only defense is “read the bible” then ok, do it. You’ll find that no one lives up to this ill-conceived hodgepodge of requirements for Christian life. We live in 2013 and it should be different than 200 B.C. but when our thought processes are so primitive it’s hard to see a marked difference.

Furthermore, something important in the name of tolerance did happen recently. Nelson Mandela’s life is a blueprint for how people of all colors and faiths and orientations can come together for what is progressive and good. Ending apartheid for black South Africans mirrors the fight against true persecution that many have fought and are fighting including homosexuals around the world. Why stifle their efforts by latching on to outdated references that are divisive and bigoted? Madiba spent 27 years in jail for his cause and you are mad because Duck Dynasty has a bad reputation. Ask yourselves, what is persecution? What is tolerance? What is religion’s purpose if it brings about hate instead of love? Next time you order the bacon wrapped scallops and God doesn’t smite you, remember that the bible was a book written a long time ago by people who were very possibly intolerant and misguided. God doesn’t require us to emulate their path of hatred, but instead, we can make the world a better place by fighting hatred with the nonviolent methods Nelson Mandela employed in his heroic campaigns.

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Phil Robertson : A Guide to (Smart) Freedom of Speech

By now, we all know that television network A&E has put Duck Dynasty clan leader Phil Robertson on suspension for comments he made in an interview for GQ magazine. Those comments were especially disparaging to homosexuals, as Robertson in essence compared homosexuality to bestiality amongst other statements that weren’t exactly kosher. To be honest, I would have thought his comments about Louisiana being perfectly fine during the Jim Crow law time period would be more offensive, but in today’s society gay is the new black.

To be clear, Robertson is allowed to have his own opinions. He is more than entitled to say things that don’t include making threats to the POTUS or falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Which, his comments were not either one of these things. He is more than allowed to say what he did.

Which is why he’s not going to jail over this. Robertson exercised his freedom of speech perfectly fine. There will be no legal consequences for his actions. But, as we have seen, there are private repercussions.

Does anybody remember the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance where Bruce Willis’ character was forced to wear a walking sign on the streets of Harlem, which prominently featured the “n” word? This case is very similar. Willis isn’t stepping outside his bounds as far as free speech goes. He is, however stepping outside the bounds of good taste and intelligent thinking. He also must realize that his actions are going to incite a certain response and reaction from the native population. In other words, he’s probably going to get killed. It’s the same thing with Robertson (minus the getting killed part). He’s allowed to make certain remarks, he just needs to realize that made in such a public forum that it is going to garner him a certain reaction which he must be prepared to deal with its fallout.

I’m sure that somewhere in his contract, A&E has reserved the right to put any cast members on suspension for any matter of things, especially public comments that could reflect on the television company. This is not wrongful termination, or even termination at all (it’s a suspension, not a firing). Robertson made comments that could hurt the reputation of the company, and the company has to take disciplinary action, plain and simple.

People also fail to realize that before Duck Dynasty was ever a thought for a TV show, that A&E existed as a company. They don’t need Duck Dynasty to survive. They are not committing suicide as a company. In fact, they have probably cashed out so hard on the popularity of this show in the past three years, that they could go a decent amount of time with it on ice and still be fine. It’s not their wallet they care about, it is instead their reputation. In all likelihood, it’s a suspension based on a breach of contract of some type, so they would have to go back on their signed intent in the first place if they were to not suspend Robertson.

Phil Robertson is entitled to his freedom of speech which he exercised. But he then must understand that whatever comments he makes, he is also subject to other people’s (including A&E) freedom of reprisal. This is not an attack on Christianity, it’s a suspension of a man for being dumb enough to not just answer questions honestly, but to take them a step further. If he was Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Wicca, Buddhist, what have you, it wouldn’t have mattered. If he made those comments he would still have been suspended no matter what. It may have been a “trap” by GQ to make him answer these questions, but Robertson is also entitled to the freedom of being smart enough not to answer those questions, or answer them in a different manner.

This all being said, I don’t care enough about these ZZ Top lookalikes and their scripted show to be sad or anything about this outcome. Just be aware that if you’re going to comment on it, I expect you to be intelligent enough to think the entire situation through.

Oh, and in case you’re curious. Remember the government shutdown? There’s more important things to be paying attention to right now, like THE BUDGET FOR THE GOVERNMENT BEING VOTED ON. Kind of the whole reason there was a shutdown in the first place. But, I’ll let you get back to your cable programs in the meantime.